News of September 2001

Dates are those of the events (in UT) when available.

Commercial Launchers | Government Launchers | Small Launchers
Missile Systems | RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems | Space Propulsion
Spaceports | Industry | Launch Market | Miscellaneous

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  Commercial Launchers

DirecTV-5 Suffers Technical Delay, not Launch Ban
September 26

The launch of DirecTV‘s DirecTV-5 satellite atop a GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton K/DM3 booster from the Baykonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan will be delayed as the Space Systems/Loral-built spacecraft could not be shipped due to an unspecified technical issue. The launch was due on October 19, provided that it could be on site 30 days earlier. Despite reports by Russia’s Moscow Times, the delay is not related to any refusal by the U.S. State Department to allow the satellite to leave to Kazakhstan, considering that the area was "off-limits" to U.S. high-tech equipment because of the country’s proximity to Afghanistan. The origin of this misleading report is being investigated.
Editor’s note: DirecTV-5 (the former Tempo 1) was previously due for launch atop a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS vehicle earlier this year but delays forced its postponement to the 4th quarter and it lost its Atlas launch slot. International Launch Services then transferred it to a back-up Proton vehicle in August. The initial launch contract was signed by SS/L in 1994 for a launch due in 1996.

Ariane 5 to Resume Flights in January
September 26

Arianespace announces that its recovery plan toward Ariane 5‘s flight resumption is moving ahead. More than 60 ignition tests of the Aestus engine have been completed at DLR‘s test center in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The next flight of Ariane 5, presumably carrying European Space Agency‘s Envisat environmental monitoring satellite, is now scheduled in January 2002.

First Delta 4 CBC Heads to Florida
September 25

Boeing Expendable Launch Systems has rolled out the first flight model of its Delta 4‘s Common Booster Core (CBC) stage of the Delta Launch Vehicle Factory in Decatur, Alabama. The stage has been transferred onboard the M/V Delta Mariner ship for a 7-10 days trip to Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida. Before its actual launch, in late April 2002, the stage will be used for a static hot firing test on Cape Canaveral’s refurbished SLC-37 pad.

Boeing Launch Services to Cap Delta and Zenit

September 24

Delta 2 and Zenit 3SL
(BoeingSea Launch)

Boeing and its partners of the Sea Launch venture have decided to consolidate the marketing and sales management of the Delta launchers family and Sea Launch’s Zenit 3SL into a single organization, Boeing Launch Services Inc. (BLS), under Boeing Expendable Launch Services (ELS). The new company will take over commercial launches while government launches of Delta vehicle will be handled by a separate entity. Sea Launch will remain in charge of operating the Zenit 3SL launch system. Boeing Launch Services will be headed by Wilbur Trafton, president & general manager of Sea Launch, who will report to Gale Schluter, vice president & general manager of Boeing Expendable Launch Systems.
Editor’s note:
Boeing and Sea Launch had signed a mutual launch backup agreement in March.
Mitsubishi Negotiating with Starsem
September 17

The Japanese potential customer reportedly negotiating with Starsem for the launch of at least two satellites has been identified as Mitsubishi Electric. The payloads would be the two satellites of the Space Environment Reliability Verification Integrated System (Servis) under development for the JapanÕs Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Organization for New Energy and Industrial Technologies Development (NEDO) and the Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF). Each satellite would weight about 1,000 kg and operate on a 1,000-km-high Sun-synchronous orbit to experiment the use of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components and technologies in actual space environment. The first launch, on a on Soyuz-Fregat vehicle, is tentatively planned in 2003.

Four Proton Flights Still Planned in 2001
September 14

Itar-Tass reports that four flights of GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s Proton K launch vehicle are still planned in 2001. Two will be conducted on behalf of International Launch Services on October 19 (DirecTV-5 for Space Systems/Loral) and November 26 (Intelsat 903 for Intelsat). The other two will be performed for the Russian Military Space Forces to loft a large military satellite in early October (Kosmos 2381, presumably the Arkon 2 imaging satellite) and a triplet of Uragan positioning satellites to replenish the Glonass constellation in mid-November. In total eight Proton vehicles will have been flown in 2001 compared to 14 in 2000 which was a record-breaking year.
Editor’s note: The launch of the 5,250-kg Astra 1K direct broadcasting satellite for Société Européenne des Satellites has slipped from December to next year.

Ariane 5 Prepares Flight Resumption
September 11

The launch campaign for the next Arianespace Ariane 5G flight has begun at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. No official date has been announced for the V145 mission which is planned late this year. A qualification board will meet on November 26 to give the green-light for the flight resumption after the mishap on the V142 flight, on July 13. The fifth and last series of initial ignition tests of the Astrium Aestus engine was completed on September 10. More than 70 ignitions were completed since mid-August at the DLR‘s test center in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The test pad will now be modified to integrate more flight elements of the EPS upper stage. The recovery plan is reportedly moving ahead according to the established planning.
Editor’s note: No firm payload has been officially announced yet for this mission but the most likely to go is European Space Agency‘s Envisat environmental monitoring satellite.

Yuzhnoye Delivers Zenit Launchers
September 10

NPO Yuzhnoye has delivered the lower stages for three Zenit 3SL launchers to Sea Launch in early September and has six more shipsets being manufactured in its facilities in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. According to Yuzhnoye officials, six Zenit 3SL launches are due in 2002 to loft PanAmSat‘s Galaxy 3C and Horizons 1 satellites as well as Boeing Satellite Systems‘ first Spaceway broadband communication satellite. An order for three more launches is also expected.
Editor’s note: Other satellites previously announced to be launched by Sea Launch in 2002 include New Skies Satellite‘s NSS-8, on a flight bought by Boeing, and AssureSat‘s first satellite on behalf of Space Systems/Loral. The latter has not completed its initial funding and is likely to be delayed at least to 2003.

Sea Launch to Loft PanAmSat/JSAT Bird
September 4

PanAmSat Corp. has exercised an option on a previous launch contract with Sea Launch to loft the first satellite of its new Horizons joint-venture with Japan Satellite Systems Co. Ltd. (JSAT) atop a Zenit 3SL vehicle during the last quarter of 2002. Horizons 1, contracted from Boeing Satellite Systems, will be based on a BSS-601HP bus and carry 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders. It will be located in geostationary orbit by 127 degrees West. The C-band capacity will be marketed by PanAmSat as "Galaxy 13".
Editor’s note: This is the first new contract signed by Sea Launch in 2001. Previous announcements in March were actually payload assignments for bulk contracts signed in 1995, 1996 or 1999 with Hughes Space & Communications (now Boeing Satellite Systems). The option comes from the launch contract for PanAmSat’s Galaxy 3C, initially due to fly in July and postponed to early 2002.

Eutelsat May Fly Maiden Delta 4
September 3
Eutelsat has signed a launch contract to fly a satellite atop Boeing‘s first Delta 4 in late April 2002 according to Space News. Boeing denies to comment stating that the actual customer for this flight has not decided to disclose its identity yet. Space News reports that the likeliest payload for the maiden flight would be the original W1 communication satellite which was damaged during ground testing in June 1998. Another option would be the Alenia Spazio-built Atlantic Bird 1 in case it cannot get a U.S. State Department export license for its U.S.-built components in time to allow its launch on a Chinese CZ-3A "Long March" booster. A final option would be the purchase of the Astrium-built satellite successively know as Intelsat K-TV, NSS-6 and Intelsat APR-3 for which Intelsat recently cancelled its procurement as Astrium failed to obtain the U.S. export license for its launch atop a Chinese CZ-3B vehicle.
Delta 4M+ (4,2)

Editor’s note: A US$50-million claim was reportedly filed for the loss of W1 which was not considered recoverable after it was doused by a fire extinguishing system during payload testing in Alcatel Space‘s facilities (then Aerospatiale’s) in Cannes. The W1 designation was later given to an Astrium-built satellite, initially ordered as Ressat and launched in September 2000. Alenia Spazio’s current contract for Atlantic Bird 1 includes a delivery on orbit. If Space News report is correct, it will mean that Eutelsat will have contracted for launches on three upcoming maiden flights: Arianespace‘s Ariane 5ECA (Hot Bird 7), Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 (Hot Bird 6) and Boeing’s Delta 4. In the past it also flew the first Atlas 3 (W4) in May 2000 and the first Atlas 2 (Eutelsat 2-F3) in December 1991. Actually, its very first satellite, Eutelsat 1-F1 even flew the first Ariane 3 in August 1984 but the launch had been contracted by the European Space Agency.

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  Government Launchers

Computer Malfunction on H-2A Launch
September 13

National Space Development Agency of Japan confirmed that its primary ground-based computer for telemetry control in Tanegashima Space Center failed 7.9 minutes into the flight of the first H-2A vehicle on August 29. A backup computer took over immediately. NASDA reportdely considers adding a third computer as an additional backup available for the 4th flight of the vehicle, possibly during summer of 2002.
Editor’s note: Several rumors circulated after the flight about an onboard computer failure or a even a computer mishap shortly before liftoff forcing to swap to a backup system for the flight.

PSLV to Fly in October
September 3

The Indian Space Research Organisation has officially set a window from September 30 to October 15 for the launch of its next PSLV mission (C3). The vehicle will carry India’s Technology Experiment Satellite and two piggyback microsatellites: European Space Agency‘s 94-kg Proba and DLR‘s 85-kg Bird (Bispectral Infrared Detector). Proba is planned to be shipped from Belgium, where it was built, to India on September 8.
Editor’s note: Informal indications show that the launch is actually planned at the end of the window.

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  Small Launchers

Athena Launches from Kodiak
September 30

After numerous postponements, a Lockheed Martin Athena 1 vehicle was eventually launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska. The vehicle lofted a composite payload including NASA‘s Starshine 3 passive orbitography satellite, U.S. Air Force‘s PicoSat technology spacecraft built by Great-Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. and two nanosatellites: Stanford University‘s Sapphire and U.S. Naval Academy‘s PCSat.
Editor’s note: This flight is presumably the last of the Athena series. The vehicle was initially procured by CTA (now part of Orbital Sciences Corp.) lo loft NASA’s Clark satellite. The launch was initially due in 1996. When the program was eventually cancelled, in February 1998, the launch service was taken over by NASA and assigned to loft its Vegetation Canopy Lidar (VCL) satellite in April 1999. The launch was reassigned in October 2000 as VCL too was postponed indefinitely. The Athena family was first developed in the early 1990s as LLV (Lockheed Launch Vehicles) by Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. (now Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Missiles & Space Operations) in order to compete with Orbital SciencesPegasus and Taurus for government launches. The design was also reportedly tailored to allow the launch of Lockheed-built Iridium satellites either on dedicated flights (LLV-1) or by pairs or clusters (LLV-2 and 3). The LLV-3 design, with solid strap-on boosters was never developed.

Latest Athena Delay
September 27

The launch of the last Lockheed Martin Athena 1 vehicle from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska, has been delayed again, at least to September 30, due to high levels of charged particles generated by a major solar flare which are still exceeding the allowable launch criteria and may disrupt the vehicle’s guidance system.

Athena Slips Again
September 25

The launch of the Lockheed Martin Athena 1 due to loft the Kodiak Star payload composite from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska, has slipped again, to September 28, as the proton flux generated by a major solar flare is still exceeding the allowable launch criteria and may disrupt the vehicle’s guidance system.

Third Athena Postponement
September 24

The first orbital launch from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska, was postponed again, to September 26 at the earliest, due to a solar flare of significant magnitude which generated a proton flux that might fool the guidance system of the Lockheed Martin Athena 1 launch vehicle.

Athena Postponed Again
September 22

A second attempt to launch a Lockheed Martin Astronautics Athena 1 vehicle from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska, was scrubbed due to a malfunction in a ground-based downrange tracking radar in Cordova, Alaska. A third attempt has been set for September 25. The vehicle, presumably the last Athena 1 to be launched is carrying the Kodiak Star payload for NASA and U.S. Air Force. The mission is valued at US$38 million.
Editor’s note: This mission will be the first orbital launch from Kodiak. Previously, only two U.S. Air Force suborbital atmospheric interceptor technology (ait) flights were conducted from the site on November 5, 1998 and September 15, 1999.

Athena Postponed
September 22

Bad weather conditions over the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska, forced NASA and Lockheed Martin to postpone the launch of an Athena 1 vehicle carrying the Kodiak Star payload composite by 24 hours to September 23.

Taurus Fails
September 21

Taurus 2110
An Orbital Science Corp. Taurus 2110 vehicle failed to orbit its composite payload after a launch from Vandenberg AFB, California. The mission was apparently flawless until the separation of the first stage, 83 seconds into flight. However, the second stage veered off course at ignition. It recovered is trajectory after 10-12 seconds but the resulting loss in final velocity reached about 150 m/s and the satellites were released on a suborbital trajectory. They eventually reentered over the Indian Ocean, North East of Madagascar. The payloads were Orbimage‘s OrbView 4 hyperspectral remote sensing satellite, NASA‘s QuikTOMS ozone monitoring spacecraft, a prototype satellite bus built by Orbital Sciences and two containers of human "cremains" flown by Celestis. Total cost of the mission is estimated to have exceeded US$100 million, including US$50 million for QuikTOMS alone. The next flight of a Taurus vehicle is tentatively planned in 2003.

Editor’s note: This was the first failure by a Taurus vehicle although a stretched version of the vehicle’s second stage was involved in two failures as element of the Pegasus XL launch system. The Alliant TechSystems Orion 50S motor, used as a second stage for the Taurus 2110 is a wingless version of the Pegasus‘ first stage. It was flown without its upper stages as the Hyper-X Launch Vehicle (HXLV) on June 2, to boost the X-43A hypersonic scramjet demonstrator and veerred off course seconds into flight. The investigation board on this failure has not released its conclusions yet.

Athena Launch Delayed
September 12

The grounding of all U.S. commercial airplanes following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington has forced Lockheed Martin Astronautics to postpone the launch of its last Athena 1 vehicle by at least two days as the launch teams could not reach the launch site. The vehicle, which will perform the first ever orbital launch from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska. Launch was due on September 17 and is now not expected before September 19.

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  Missile Systems

North Korea Warns Japan on H-2A
September 28

North Korea has warned Japan on the development of ballistic missiles under cover of peaceful programs. According to a statement by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korean authorities consider that the H-2A launch vehicle, under development by Japan’s National Space Development Agency, "can be used for military purposes as it is easily convertible into an intercontinental ballistic missile."
Editor’s note: Such annoucements suggest that North Korea might be testing its arguments in case it decides to resume test flights of its own Taepo Dong ballistic missile system. As a large launch vehicle with cryogenic stage, the H-2A would be a very expensive, very inefficient and highly visible ICBM
. However, some of its technologies, like the large monolithic solid rocket motors of its SRB-A strap-on boosters, could be applied to missile development. Actually, with its Mu series of solid-fuelled launchers, Japan has been mastering most of the technologies needed for missile development since the early 1970s. Eventually, the H-2A will be used for military purposes as the launch vehicle for the Information Gathering Satellites, Japan’s military observation system aimed at first at monitoring missile activities in North Korea.

Two Will Compete on Liquid-fuelled Target Vehicle – Updated
September 26

U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has selected TRW Space & Electronics and another, still unidentified contractor, for the second phase of its Liquid Booster Development Program. The two companies will receive up to US$24 million each to design a liquid-fuelled booster stage which could be used as a representative target for theater missile defense and later national missile defense systems. The booster, fuelled by non-toxic propellants (hydrogen peroxide and kerosene), will simulate "Scud" types of missiles. A following production contract is expected to be worth US$100-million over 6 years.
Editor’s note: Five companies were selected for an initial study in early 2001. Current Hera target vehicles are based on solid-fuelled stages from the Minuteman ballistic missile series. Several Scuds have also been acquired by the SMDC to serve as targets.
Updates: See October 4.

North Korea Denies Alleged Missile Exports
September 22

North Korea has denied that it has been continuing to export ballistic missile systems and technologies to countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa in 2000 as claimed by a congressional report recently issued by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. North Korea is accused of missile technologies proliferation to countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Syria.
Editor’s note: Export of missile technologies has been conducted by North Korea as a major source for currencies. According to South Korean estimates, these exports have been bringing US$500 million to US$1 billion per year to North Korea since the 1980s.

North Korea’s Taepo Dong MRBM
U.S. Senate Restores Missile Defense Budget
September 21

The U.S. Senate has eventually agreed to keep the missile defense budget for FY2002 at its full US$8.3 billion value requested by the White House. A US$1.3-billion cut, required by the Armed Services Committee was restored. According to this amendment to the US$343-billion defense authorization bill, the U.S. administration will have the option of using these funds for anti-terrorism efforts.

TRW to Maintain U.S. ICBMs
September 19

TRW ICBM Systems was awarded a US$139-million modification to an existing contract with U.S. Air Force’s Ogden Air Logistics Center, in Hill AFB, Utah, for sustainment of the Minuteman and MX Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile fleets during FY2002.

Russian SLBM Test Flight
September 18

An unidentified Russian sea-launched ballistic missile (presumably a RSM-54 ‘Shtil’) was fired from the Podolsk submarine in the Sea of Okhotsk. Its dummy warhead reportedly hit its target at the Chizh testing range on the coast of the Barents Sea.

Minuteman Launches Postponed
September 14

The test flights of two Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles from Vandenberg AFB, California, have been postponed until further notice as a consequence of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. One of the missiles was to be launched by a task force from the 91st Space Wing of Minot AFB, North Dakota, while the second was to be operated by an airborne launch control system onboard a Strategic Air Command aircraft from Offutt AFB, Nebraska.

India Plans Agni 3 Test Launch
September 13

India’s Defence Research Development Organisation has reportedly scheduled the first test flight of the new Agni 3 medium range ballistic missile in January or February 2002. The Agni 3 will be able to deliver one ton of payload at 5,000 km range.

Terrorist Attacks Won’t Undermine NMD Rationale
September 12

Although the unprecedented attacks on New York and Washington have demonstrated that efficient terrorist actions could be conducted without requiring the use of ballistic missiles, the tragedy doesn’t undermine the rationale for a National Missile Defense system according to U.S. Department of Defense officials. Actually, Republican and Democrat members of the U.S. Congress have promised to set aside their differences over the NMD project and quickly approve more spending on military and anti-terrorist activities. The Defense bill covering NMD spendings is planned for examination by the U.S. Senate by mid-September.

Minor Mishap on GBI Maiden Flight
September 11

An anomaly on the vehicle roll control has reportedly been detected during the first flight of the Boeing-built prototype Ground-Based Interceptor, in development to boost the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense Segment system (formerly known as the National Missile Defense system). According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the anomaly occured some 33 seconds into flight, during operations of the vehicle’s first stage.
Editor’s note: The first stage of Boeing’s GBI is based on an Alliant Techsystems GEM-40VN motor, a modified version of the GEM-40 used as a strap-on booster on Boeing‘s Delta 2 launchers with a new thrust vector control incorpoarting a movable nozzle.

Lockheed Martin Gets Trident Option
September 10

U.S. Navy‘s Strategic Systems Programs have exercised a US$24-million option on a previously signed contract with Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space to provide additional hardware and requalification work on the production the Trident 2 (D5) sea-launched ballistic missiles through September 2004.

U.S. Still Opposed to Chinese Missile Build Up
September 4

The U.S. administration denies earlier reports on its strategy toward China’s ballistic missile development policy, claiming that it will not drop its objections to the Chinese missile build-up in exchange for Chinese acceptance of its own missile defense program.

U.S. Won’t Oppose Chinese Missile Build Up
September 1st

The U.S. administration is changing its strategy toward China’s ballistic missile development policy, in order to convince the Chinese government that its current controversial National Missile Defense system development is not aimed at undercutting China’s nuclear capability. The U.S. no longer plan to oppose the modernization and increase of China’s ballistic missile forces, according to senior U.S. officials. Actually, the U.S. administration is even ready to discuss with China for a possible resumption of underground nuclear testing.
See U.S. administration’s denial above, on September 4.

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  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

Bolt Holes Inspection May Delay Shuttle Flights
September 30

NASA is considering removing the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pods on Space Shuttle Endeavour for inspection after elongated bolt holes were reported on the OMS junction joints on Columbia. This inspection could delay Endeavour’s next flight from November 30 to early January.
Editor’s note: Elongated holes could be linked to loads and fatigue as the OMS are used to boost the whole orbiter mass while in orbit. When fired for International Space Station orbit correction, the two OMS pods are jointly boosting more than 200 metric tons of mass
. However, orbiter Columbia never performed such maneuvers.

USA to Refurbish Shuttle Orbiters Actuators
September 20

United Space Alliance was awarded a US$62-million increase to its Space Flight Operations Contract with NASA to refurbish the hydraulic actuators on the space shuttle orbiters through 2006. Each of the 11 actuators on each of the four orbiter vehicles will be rebuilt and modified with a new one-piece spool stop to correct a problem with the potential unseating of spool stops that was identified during previous shuttle maintenance work. OV-105 Endeavour will be the first orbiter to be fitted with the refurbished actuators during its next maintenance period, currently scheduled to begin in 2003.

ESA to Contribute 40% to CRV
September 14
The ministerial council of the European Space Agency, meeting in Edimburg in mid-November, will be proposed to provide a €500-million funding to NASA‘s Crew Return Vehicle program. This amount includes €140 million already spent in the X-38 demonstration program. The remaining €360 million will come from the cancellation of the last flight of the Automated Transfer Vehicle in 2016 (€200 million), from an unused Italian contribution (€70 million), and from new funds to be approved by the ministers (€90 million).


Editor’s note: This proposal answers a demand for help by NASA on this program which was put on hold due to tight budget constraints imposed by the U.S. administration after a US$4-billion cost overrun on the International Space Station program was disclosed earlier this year. Some ESA member states, including France and Germany, are asking for guarantees regarding the actual role of their industry in the CRV production. Without the CRV, European space agencies fear not to be able to fly their astronauts for long duration missions onboard the ISS and thus not be able to operate their own orbital laboratories at their full capacity.

No Bail Out for X-33/X-34
September 7

The U.S. Air Force confirms that it will not take over NASA‘s former X-33 and X-34 reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrators program. After a 60-day study in partnership with NASA and the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, a US$2-billion project to complete the assembly of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works X-33 single-stage-to-orbit demonstrator and fly it in combination with the X-37 space maneuvering vehicle has eventually been rejected. U.S. Air Force funding for the NASA/Boeing X-37 will expire in late September 2002. No plan was proposed to resume work on the Orbital Sciences Corp. X-34.
Editor’s note: Lockheed Martin had initially proposed to the U.S. Air Force to complete and fly the X-33 for about US$400 million.

Shuttle Updgrades Scaled Down by Budget Constraints
September 6

NASA plans to delay or to cancel part of the upgrades planned for its space shuttle fleet due to limited budgetary resources. According to U.S. Congress sources, the budget for space shuttle activities in 2002 will be US$218-million lower than expected.
Editor’s note: A planned refurbishment of Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery has already been delayed by several months.

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  Space Propulsion

Moog to Study MEMS Thruster Valve
September 10

NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center has awarded a US$67,953 contract to Moog Inc. to study a MEMS valve for future miniature thrusters.

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NASA Did Not Remove Baykonur Representatives
September 28

NASA has denied calling back its representatives in Baykonur, Kazakhstan, after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Several specialist from NASA’s Langley Research Center actually left the cosmodrome but for personal reasons.

Manned Soyuz Launches from Kourou?
September 14

According to the French weekly aerospace magazine Air&Cosmos, some European supporters of the Soyuz launches from Kourou, French Guiana, actually expect that the new launch facility could be used for manned flights to the International Space Station. However, Russian negotiators are reportedly refusing to discuss the move of manned space flights outside from Baykonur.

Kourou Honors Victims of Terrorist Attacks
September 14

All activities at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, were stopped for three minutes of silence in order to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. All flags on the space center were brought to half mast.
Editor’s note: These three minutes of silence were actually observed all around Western Europe.

Vandenberg Refurbishment Contract
September 14

Phoenix Management was awarded a US$10-million contract by U.S. Air Force‘s 30th Space Wing to provide launch support services to the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, California. The one-year contract includes the refurbishment of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile launch facilities.

Astrotech Expands in Cape Canaveral
September 10

Astrotech Space Operations, a subsidiary of Spacehab Inc., has completed a US$20-million financing to expand its satellite processing facilities in Titusville, Florida, from 8,500 to 15,000 sq.m. The upgraded facility, to be completed in October, will be able to accommodate larger payloads for future Delta 4 and Atlas 5 launches with diameters of up to 5 m and launch masses exceeding 4,500 kg.

Sverdrup Cape Canaveral Contract Extended
September 4

Sverdrup Technology Inc. was awarded a US$44.1-million extension to an existing contract with U.S. Air Force’s Patrick AFB, Florida, for maintenance and operations support at Cape Canaveral Air Station for FY2002.

Alcatel/GTD Get Kourou Control Contract
September 3

Alcatel Space and GTD have been awarded a five-year contract, worth €32.45-million, by the European Space Agency, to provide operations and launch control software for the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

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Chemical Plant Explodes in Toulouse
September 21

The AZF (Atofina) fertilizer production plant near Toulouse, Southern France, was devastated by an explosion at 08:05Z. The shock wave damaged buildings 4 km around and a large chemical cloud (mostly ammonia) was released in the atmosphere. The death toll is 29 with the number of injuries exceeds 650. The AZF plant was located some 400 m from Tolochimie, a Groupe SNPE facility producing propellant for the Ariane launch system. One SNPE worker was killed and the plant was stopped and secured. Damages were reported on Tolochimie’s administration and laboratory buildings but the propellant production facility itself was reportedly unaffected. No disruption in the propellant production is expected. Arianespace announced in a statement that it can also rely on propellant stocks if needed and that future launches will not suffer any delay.
Editor’s note: I was in Toulouse two hours after the blast. The city looked dead as the population was required to stay inside until the pollution risk was assessed. The pollution was eventually considered low (1/100th of the danger level). The explosion, equivalent to an earthquake of magnitude 3.5 on the Richter scale, occured 4 km from the CNES Toulouse Space Center and 5 km from Astrium‘s facilities where the Ariane vehicle equipment bays are manufactured. No damage were reported in either of these sites as the shockwave was deviated by a hill. Minor damages were reported at Alcatel Space‘s satellite payload manufacturing plant, 3 km from the blast, mostly with shattered windows. The Space Medicine Hospital, where a three-month "bedrest" experiment is underway to simulate microgravity effects on volunteers, was only 2 km from the blast and suffered minor damage too. Despite early reports of a possible terrorist attack, the explosion is now considered an accident by investigators.

Snecma’s Privatization Postponed
September 17

The French ministry of Finance has announced the postponement of the privatization of state-owned motorist Snecma. Some 25% of Snecma’s capital was planned to be proposed to investors in October for an amount totalling about €1.5 billion. The decision to postpone this sale is a consequence of the current turmoil on aerospace-related stocks after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Editor’s note: French trade analysts expect the privatization process to resume in February 2002.

U.S. Launch Centers and Industry Closed Down
September 12

After the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, all NASA space centers have been temporarily closed. Major Boeing facilities have been closed too: Boeing’s Delta launch centers in Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida, and Vandenberg AFB, California; Sea Launch‘s homeport in Long Beach, California; Boeing’s National Missile Defense office in Crystal City, Virginia, and Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, California. International Launch Services has decided to postpone its Users Conference, initialy due for September 18-20 in Cape Canaveral.

Snecma Privatized in October
September 7

Snecma is expected to begin its privatization on October 11, by selling about 25% of its capital on the stock market. Initial quotations are due on October 25. The French motorist is currently 97% state-owned.

CAMEC Changes Name
September 6

China Aerospace Mechinery & Electronics Corp. (CAMEC), a spinoff of the China Aerospace Corp., changes its name into China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp. (CASIC).

Snecma/SNPE Joint-Venture Due Early Next Year
September 4

Herakles, the solid propulsion joint-venture of Snecma and Groupe SNPE, will be incorporated in early 2002 and owned equally by both French state-owned companies according to French ministry of Defense officials who received trade union delegates from SNPE.
Editor’s note: The merger of the motorist’s and the chemist’s solid propulsion activities had been expected for mid-2001 but was hampered by a disagreement between the two partners regarding the value of their respective businesses. Snecma reportedly asked for a majority share in the joint-venture’s capital.

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  Launch Market

Boeing to Build Superbird 6
September 28

Japan’s Space Communications Corp. (SCC) has signed a contract with Boeing Satellite Systems to procure its Superbird 6 satellite to be launched in the third quarter of 2003. SCC will later contract separately for a launch service. Superbird 6 will be based on Boeing’s BSS-601 bus and carry 23 Ku-band transponders. It will be operated from a geostationary slot at 158°E.
Editor’s note: Six Superbird satellites have been launched since 1989, five on Arianespace Ariane 4 vehicles (including one launch failure) and one on an International Launch Services Atlas 2AS. A seventh satellite, NSAT-110 (a.k.a. Superbird 5), also flew on an Ariane 4 in October 2000.

Inmarsat Postpones IPO
September 28

Inmarsat Ventures, the holding which resulted from the privatization of the Inmarsat organization in 1999, has decided to postpone its initial public offering due to "exceptional market conditions." The postponement will not affect the procurement of three Inmarsat 4 satellites from Astrium according to Inmarsat officials.
Editor’s note: Inmarsat plans to invest about US$1.7 billion in the development of the Inmarsat 4 system
. The satellites are planned for launch in 2003/2004 onboard Arianespace‘s Ariane 5ECA and International Launch ServicesAtlas 5/500 launch vehicles.

Another On-orbit Failure
September 27

PanAmSat‘s PAS-7 satellite will shortly be declared a total loss following a major power loss on September 6 according to Airclaims. An insurance claim worth US$253 million will be filed. Built by Space Systems/Loral, PAS-7 was launched by Arianespace in September 1998 and expected to last through 2013.
Editor’s note: Constructi
ve Total Loss (CTL) does not mean that the satellite is inoperative but that it has lost more than 20-22% of its electrical power supply.

Boeing BSS-702 Satellites Suffer Generic Flaw
September 27

Boeing Satellite Systems has reportedly notified its cutsomers that the satellites based on its latest BSS-702 bus are affected by a generic power degradation problem apparently linked to their advanced solar arrays. No specific details have been released on the kind of degradation but an early replacement of the satellites currently in orbit is expected. Future BSS-702 satellites will be modified with improved solar arrays based on those used on the earlier BSS-601 bus. The next BSS-702 to fly will be PanAmSat‘s Galaxy 3C, initialy due for launch in mid-2001 and currently planned in the first half of 2002, atop a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL.
Editor’s note: BSS-702s already launched are PanAmSat’s Galaxy 11 and PAS-1R, Télésat Canada‘s Anik F1and XM Radio‘s Rock and Roll satellites. Their replacement was not expected before 2010/2012 at the earliest. Other BSS-702s planned in 2002 are Télésat’s Anik F2 on Ariane 5 and Hughes‘ Spaceway 1 on Zenit 3SL.

Orbimage to File for Chapter 11
September 26

Orbital Imaging Corp. (Orbimage) is reportedly preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to restructure its activities after the loss of its OrbView 4 satellite in the launch failure of an Orbital Sciences Taurus vehicle on September 21. OSC, which owns about 50% of Orbimage, will provide US$13 million to the venture from the US$74-million insurance coverage for the launch. Orbimage also arranged a US$50-million loan. Orbimage plans to launch OrbView 3, as a replacement for OrbView 4, on a Pegasus XL vehicle in 2002.

Alcatel to Take a Stake in Agrani
September 24

Alcatel Spacecom, the operating arm of Alcatel Space, reportdely plans to acquire 13% of Agrani Satellite. An unidentified "global major" telecommunications operator is also expected to take a 26% share in the company. Agrani Satellite is reportedly about to procure its Agrani 2 satellite from Alcatel Space Industries.
Editor’s note: The Agrani 2 satellite will actually be the refurbished Thaicom 4 which was built in advance by Alcatel in 1997 but eventually not procured by Shinawatra Satellite (now Shin). Launch is expected on an Arianespace Ariane 5 vehicle. The actual signing of the contracts is on hold waiting for an export license for U.S.-built components to India. Although the U.S. administration announced that the ban on dual technologies exports to India was lifted, a formal waiver for Agrani has not yet been issued.

EMS Takes Over NetSat28
September 20

EMS Technologies Inc. has acquired NetSat28 LLC, a company holding a license from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to build and operate a Ka-band communication satellite covering the United States from 95°W.
Editor’s note: NetSat28’s license has been revoked in June 2000 by the FCC which considered that NetSat28 had failed to meet satellite manufacturing milestones. The license was restored in May 2001 following an appeal. In January 2000, NetSat28 had selected Space Systems/Loral to build a satellite for a launche "before October 2002". Actual status of this contract (not listed in SS/L’s backlog) is unknown. EMS Technologies owns the former Satellite Product Division of Canada’s Spar Aerospace which built several communication satellites for Canada and Brazil.

NASA Considers Postponing Mars Missions
September 19

NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is reportedly to postpone the launch of its proposed Smart Mars Lander carrying a Long-Range Mars Rover from 2007 to 2009 and to cancel the following mission (a radar imaging orbiter) which was initially planned for 2009 in order to balance its budget plans. A formal decision is expected in October or November.
Editor’s note: The Smart Lander is a complement to the Premier probe under study by France’s CNES for launch toward Mars on an Ariane 5ECB in 2007. It is considered a major step toward the international Mars Sample Return mission which could then slip well beyond its planned 2011 schedule.

Bolivar*Sat Operations Approved
September 12

The five countries of the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela) have approved the operations of the future Bolivar*Sat satellites in Ku-band. The US$500-million project is led by Andesat, which holds the operating license, with Alcatel Space as prime contractor for the overall system. The initial Bolivar*Sat satellite is now planned for launch in 2003, presumably on an Ariane 5 vehicle.
Editor’s note: Alcatel Space has signed to build up to four Bolivar*Sat satellites to be operated at 61 and 67 degrees West.

AeroAstro Wins STP Contract
September 10

AeroAstro was awarded a US$11.2-million contract by the U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center to design, develop, build and operate the Space Test Program Satellite One spacecraft. The contract runs through November 2005.
Editor’s note: No detail has been released on this mission but the spacecraft could be one of up to six microsatellites to be flown in the first quarter of 2005 piggyback on a Boeing Delta 4M vehicle fitted with EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA). The primary payload for this flight would be a low-Earth orbit satellite launched from Cape Canaveral AFS.

Lockheed Martin to Build Three GE Satellites
September 6

Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems has been awarded a contract by GE American Communications (Americom) to build three small C-band geostationary satellites. These GE-10, GE-11 and GE-18 will be based on Lockheed Martin’s A2100 bus and will carry 24 transponders. Their expected launch mass will be around 1,800 kg each. GE-10 and GE-11 are planned to replace aging Satcom C4 and C3 satellites at 135 and 131 degrees West, respectively. GE-18 will be kept as a ground spare. No launch provider nor launch dates have been announced.
Editor’s note: Satcom C4 and C3 were launched on August 31 and September 10, 1992, respectively. They are both expected to reach end of life in 2004. Lockheed Martin is also assumed to have signed contracts for two larger GE satellites, GE-15 and GE-16, with hybrid Ku/Ka-band payloads.

Loral Gets Firm Order for DirecTV-7S
September 6

Space Systems/Loral announces that it has been selected by DirecTV Inc. to provide its second multiple spot-beams direct broadcasting satellite, DirecTV-7S. The satellite, based on SS/L’s LS-1300 bus, will be delivered in the second half of 2003. It will carry a reconfigurable Ku-band payload able to provide 54 transponders through 27 beams or 44 transponders through 30 beams.
Editor’s note: SS/L begun work on the DirecTV-7S satellite during the second quarter of 2001.

China Proposes to Launch ESA Observatory
September 5

China has proposed to provide the launch service for European Space Agency‘s World Space Observatory/Ultraviolet (WSO/UV) spacecraft in July 2006. The international observatory is currently planned for launch atop a GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton vehicle to reach the L2 Sun-Earth lagrangian stability point, 1.5 million km from Earth.

MirCorp Plans Mini Space Station
September 4

MirCorp announces that it has signed an agreement with Rosaviakosmos and RKK Energiya to begin a feasibility study for a small private space station to be launched by 2004. Tentatively dubbed "Mini Station 1", the man-tended facility would be lofted to a coplanar orbit with the International Space Station so that it could be visited for two-weeks stays by replacement Soyuz flights en route to the ISS. Resupply by unmanned Progress cargo spacecraft is planned too. Financing sources and expected budget for the project have not been disclosed although a cost of about US$100 million is expected by analysts. A design review is announced in October.
Editor’s note: No details have been released on the Mini-Station 1 design but an artist view. The proposed concept is apparently derives from the ISS Russian science modules, currently delayed indefinitely. This design includes a Soyuz/Progress service module and possibly some elements from the TsSKB-Progress Nikha/Kuban automated satellites as well as a multiple docking module resembling that of the Mir core modules. Total mass and launch services are unknown.

Taiwan to Buy Russian Launches
September 3

Taiwan’s National Space Policy Office has reportedly signed a MoU with a group of Russian institutes for the launch of an unidentified satellite on a Russian booster. A firm launch contract is expected shortly.
Editor’s note: A US$5-million launch price has been reported, suggesting a piggyback launch.

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U.S. Army Hires Space Consultants
September 6

The U.S. Army Space Command has awarded two five-year contracts to Arinc and Mevatec, respectively worth US$147.5 million and US$145.4 million, to support definition, planning, development of space exploitation initiatives on behalf of the Space & Missile Defense Battle Lab and the U.S. Army Space Community. In the wake of demonstration of new space-based technologies, Arinc and Mevatec will "demonstrate the value of new space capabilities to the warfighter" and support the identification of relevant technological requirements.

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